MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State men's volleyball team opened the 2011 season with a 3-0 (25-23, 27-25, 25-22) sweep of Lindenwood Friday evening at Worthen Arena. In the hotly contested battle, 12 different player helped guide the Cardinals to the victory.
"Overall, I am grateful for Lindenwood coming in and playing us this weekend, as I know it is very early in the year," said Ball State head coach Joel Walton. "It was critical for us to get a match in before we head out to Hawai'i. I thought our guys did some good things, but they also had some first-match jitters. The nice thing is we are getting those out of the way here, instead of in Hawai'i next week. I was also pleased with our ability to finish out some really close games tonight."
Leading the way for the Ball State offense were sophomore outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) and redshirt sophomore right side attacker Jamion Hartley (North Chicago, Ill./North Chicago H.S.) with eight kills apiece. Wrather also tied for match-high honors with three total blocks, while Hartley added three digs and a service ace.
Also having a strong attacking night was senior middle attacker Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) with seven kills and a match-best .636 (7-0-11) hitting percentage. Nelson also collected three blocks, including one of three solo blocks for the Cardinals’ defense.
Fellow senior outside attacker Lee Meyer (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller H.S.) added six kills and six digs.
In the backcourt, redshirt freshman libero Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Cathedral H.S.) led all players with a career-high 14 digs in his first collegiate match.
As a team, the Cardinals were able to out-hit the visiting Lions .255 to .175, with sophomore Dan Wichmann (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove H.S) setting the first game and freshman Graham McIlvaine (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central H.S.) guiding the offense in the final two sets.
Lindenwood's JM Plummer led all players with 14 kills, while adding a .294 (14-4-34) attack percentage on a match-high 34 swings. Mike Warren added a team-best 11 digs for LU, while falling one kill short of a double-double with nine on the evening.
In addition to out-hitting the Lions, Ball State held an 8-to-4 edge in team blocks and a 5-to-2 advantage in aces. Lindenwood out-dug the Cardinals 39-to-33 for the match.
While the Lions roared out to an early 6-2 advantage in the opening set, the Cardinals battled back to score five of the next six points, tying the score at 7-7 on a block assists from J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) and Wrather. One play later, a Lindenwood setting error gave BSU its first advantage of the match at 8-7.
After a timeout from the guests, another block from Gasparovic and Wrather pushed the Ball State edge to three at 11-8. Lindenwood would rally back within one point at the 14-13 mark, thanks to a Plummer kill, only to have a service error and Wrather kill extend BSU’s lead back to three at 16-13. Another Lions run moved the score to 16-15, only to have kills from Nelson and Hartley make the score 18-15.
Lindenwood was not done with its comeback attempt, however, as a Rick Hess kill and back-to-back Ball State attack errors tied the score at 18 and forced a Cardinals’ timeout. LU managed to reclaim the lead three points later on a BSU setting error. With BSU trailing 22-21, kills from Meyer and Nelson helped BSU regain the advantage at 23-22.
A Warren kill tied the score one last time at 23-23, before a pivotal solo block from Wichmann gave the Cardinals set-point at 24-23. Nelson ended the game one play later with his third kill of the frame.
Ball State scored the first three points of the second frame, only to have Lindenwood battle back and tie the score at five. From there, the teams played to a 10-10 stalemate before a Nelson service ace and a Gasparovic kill helped force the Lions' first timeout at 13-10.
From there, the Cardinals pulled ahead by five at the 18-13 mark on a kill from Meyer. A Nelson over pass blast moments later led to LU’s second minute break at 21-15. While a Wrather kill gave BSU set-point at 24-19, a pair of Plummer kills helped force a Ball State timeout at 24-22.
Ball State was forced to use its second timeout on the next rally, as an attack into the net moved the score to 24-23. Another attack error by the Cardinals helped LU tie the score at 24-24. With the score tied at 25, a Wrather kill gave BSU another change to win the frame at 26-25. This time, BSU would not disappoint, as soft shot off the block from Gasparovic landed in the middle of the floor allowing the Cardinals to escape with a 27-25 set victory.
The teams play to a 3-3 tie to open the third set, before a pair of Derek Menendez (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley H.S.) kills helped Ball State pull ahead 8-4. Hartley followed with a kill and service ace to help force Lindenwood’s first timeout of the set at 11-5.
The Cardinals looked poised to pull away with the game, leading 13-8, but a kill from Warren and a Bradley Johnston service ace cut the edge to three at 13-10. Two more Warren kills helped cut the lead to 14-12, while a Plummer kill brought the score within one at 15-14.
A Marcus Imwalle (Maria Stein, Ohio/Marion Local H.S.) kill and a LU attack error helped BSU reclaim a three-point lead at 18-15. With the guests back within one point, at 18-17, kills from Nelson and Greg Herceg (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Ignatius H.S.) helped the Cardinals pull ahead by four at 21-17, leading to the Lions’ second break of the frame.
Ball State went on to reach match-point at the 24-20 mark on a Lindenwood service error. The guests gave the Cardinals one more scare, scoring the next two points, only to have a Lindenwood ball handling error end the game at 25-22.
The Ball State men’s volleyball team returns to action Saturday evening, when it hosts its annual alumni match at 7:30 p.m. inside Worthen Arena. A total of 21 former letterwinners are slated to return for the match, including All-Americans Ian Peckler, Keith Schunzel, Paul Fasshauer and Todd Reimer.